Lottery winner gets wish: trip to NFL draft

League obliges request, rolls out the red carpet

April 19, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Where would you want to go if you won $12 million in the lottery?

Disneyland? Paris? Maui? Tahiti?

Would you believe the NFL draft in New York?

That's what Seattle Seahawks original season-ticket holder Don Hopkins Jr. wanted to do when he split a $24 million prize in the Washington state lottery.

Hopkins, 57, got a $4.32 million check when he decided to take his prize in a lump sum. He immediately retired from a well-paying job supervising the loading of ships in Seattle.

He bought a half-million dollar boat, fattened his stock portfolio (going from 400 to 4,000 shares of Microsoft) and set up a $100,000-a-year scholarship program at five Seattle high schools.

But what he really wanted to do was attend the draft in New York after watching it on TV all these years in Seattle.

So the Seahawks contacted the NFL, which gave him and a friend, Henry Ford Rice Jr., and his son, Michael, the red carpet treatment.

His son is a Yankees fan, so they went to Yankee Stadium on Thursday night to see New York lose to the Orioles.

But the real attraction was attending the draft. It lived up to expectations.

"This is first cabin," Hopkins said. "What they did for us is beyond words. Actually seeing it in person is something. It's like a brotherhood. Everybody is friendly and talking football."

They even sat through the entire second day when the obscure players were being selected.

Hopkins won the lottery New Year's Eve and called Rice to tell him they were going to the draft.

"There was silence on the other end of the phone," Hopkins said because Rice, a retired Boeing worker, didn't believe it at first.

He believed it yesterday.

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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